Can Rats See in the Dark?

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Rats are nocturnal animals and you rarely see them during the day. Pet rats sometimes adapt their rhythms to spend more time with their owners and are awake in the morning and late afternoon as well as evening, as well. But since most of their activities take place at night, you might be wondering, if rats can see in the dark.

As a whole, rats cannot see in complete darkness. They are nocturnal animals and do most of their activities at night, but they need some source of light to see. Rats do not depend on their visual sense, they highly depend on their sense of smelling and hearing.

In the wild, rats spend most of their time hiding and avoiding predators. Just like most other rodents, they are prey animals and have many predators. To be able to detect predators quickly, their eyes are located on the sides of their heads. This enables them to see a lot of what is going on around them. 

Predators, such as foxes, or dogs, have their eyes located towards the front. This enables them to focus on the prey but gives them a smaller field of vision.

Wild rats can stay hidden during the day, and move around at night. But what about pet rats? Do they need a light at night to see and what exactly are rats doing all night long? You can find the answers to these questions in this article.

Do Rats Need Light at Night?

Rats are very active at night, but they should not be left with a light.

Rats don’t need light at night, even though their night vision is very poor. They use their other senses such as smelling, feeling with their whiskers, and hearing to know where they are and what’s going on around them. Light at night will only disturb them.

As a general rule, you can stick to a maximum of 12 hours of light every day. Rats always need the option to hide somewhere and to avoid the light. Therefore the housing for the rats should never be see-through. Wooden houses are perfect to offer them the best place to hide and sleep. 

Can too Much Light Harm My Rats?

Rats are nocturnal animals, but what if they are being exposed to light 24/7? 

As a whole, an excess of light can harm rats. Their stress levels will increase and health issues such as diabetes and tumors can occur. Too much light can lead to a shorter life span for rats.

Studies have shown that an excess of light can cause serious health problems for pet rats. In this study, rats were exposed to indoor light 24/7.

The rats in this study that were exposed to the light experienced several health issues compared to rats that were exposed to light 12 hours per day.

The rats were more likely to have diabetes, most females had irregular estrus cycles, there was a significant increase in tumors, and the overall life span was significantly shorter.

Do Rats Prefer Light or Dark?

Rats have very sensitive eyes. They can see well in semi-shade environments and prefer to stay hidden. Bright light can even harm their eyes.

As a whole, rats prefer the dark. They don’t have night vision and depend on their other senses to get around in the dark. Pet rats have adapted to life indoors and will also come out when lights are on, but they will avoid direct sunlight.

Even though rats prefer the dark, your pet rats will be happy to play and interact with you with the lights on. You should also not keep them in the dark all the time, because rats need the difference between light during the day and darkness at night, to be able to develop a good day and night rhythm. Otherwise, they will get confused and even sick.

Should I Dim the Light for My Rats?

Rats prefer the dark. They have sensitive eyes which can be harmed by bright light and exposure to many hours of light will lead to stress and health issues.

As a whole, dimming the light and increasing the hours of darkness compared to the hours with light will reduce stress and health issues, and will lead to more relaxed and healthy rats.

Studies have shown that rats are less stressed in an environment with dim light and a light-dark cycle with only 8 hours of light. Longer dark periods not only reduce stress and reduce the average heart rate but also increase the ability to stay calmer in stressful situations. 

Dimming the light a bit and not exposing them to light for more than 8 hours a day will definitively benefit your rats.

What Do Rats Do at Night?

Rats are nocturnal and spend most of their active time during the night. They play with each other, climb around, run and exercise, and most importantly: Search for food and eat. Rats in the wild also spend a lot of time hiding and avoiding predators.

Rats are omnivores, which means that they can eat many different types of food. 

If you want to entertain your pet rats at night, you can hide some treats in different corners of the cage, or inside of toys. Your pets will love to search for food and you will hear them sniffing around in the cage all night long.

Do Rats Like the Sun?

Rats do not like direct sunlight. They have sensitive eyes that are specialized to see in the half-dark. The eyes can even be harmed by bright light.

As a whole, rats do not like the sun. They should not be exposed to direct sunlight because it can be harmful to their eyes and health in general. Sunlight can lead to overheating, retinal damage, and even cancer. 

Rats should not be exposed to direct sunlight, at all. They do best in the darkness and dim light. A good balance would be around 8 hours of dim light and 16 hours of darkness per day.

Unlike other pets such as cats or dogs, you will never see a rat enjoying the sunlight by sunbathing.

Rats have trouble cooling down. Direct sunlight can quickly lead to overheating and since rats cannot sweat, overheating can be a real issue.

Their only way to cool the body down is to dilate the vessels in the tail. This is also a reason why rats should never be kept in a cage with glass walls because a glass cage can heat up very quickly.

Do Rats Need the Sun for Vitamin D?

It is important to offer your pet rat a healthy and balanced diet. Vitamin D can be found in a lot of food. The health benefits of keeping a rat out of the sun are much more important than exposing a rat to the sun for some Vitamin D which can also be given through food.

Do Rats See Colors?

Rats have two different cones in their eyes to see both ultraviolet light and the light in the middle of the visible spectrum.

Seeing ultraviolet light is extremely useful for rats because they can see trails that we cannot see. Some vitamins can be seen in UV light, as well as in urine. This gives rats the possibility to follow each other’s urine trails.

As a whole, rats have the ability to see color, but their color vision is rather limited. They definitively see the world differently than we do. They can see ultraviolet light and some colors in the middle of the visible spectrum, but not as bright as we do.

Are Albino Rats Blind?

Albino rats have red eyes and white fur. If a rat has white fur, but the eyes are not red, it is not an albino. They are also referred to as PEWs, which stands for “Pink-Eyes White”.

As a whole, the eyesight of albino rats is very poor and far worse than the eyesight of pigmented rats. They are not blind, but their poor vision makes them rather fearful pets.

I experienced that my albino rat was a lot more nervous than the other rats I owned. It could be a coincidence but I was regularly bitten by my albino in a rather aggressive way, while none of the other rats I owned ever bit me. The rat was scared when I put my hand in the cage, and was frightened and startled many times. 

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